SINGAPORE: The police on Wednesday night (Feb 7) refuted claims, spread widely online, that a police officer and a member of the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) disrupted a group's Thaipusam procession.
In a statement posted on Facebook, police said that they were aware of videos circulating online of the incident, which took place at about 4am during a kavadi procession on Thaipusam last Wednesday.
"Some participants in a group of about 16 were singing, amplified through portable loudspeakers and playing musical instruments," police said in the statement.
"A HEB official advised them to stop, as it was not permitted under the Thaipusam permit conditions. However, one of the participants challenged the HEB official by claiming that what they were playing were not musical instruments. The group, however, eventually complied with the HEB official’s advice and continued with the procession."
Half an hour later, at around 4.30am at Selegie Road near the Selegie HDB estate, the same group of people was seen singing and amplifying the singing through portable loudspeakers, police said.
"HEB officials and police officers engaged the group a second time, and advised them to lower the volume. In fact, earlier in the night, police had received a noise disturbance complaint related to the Thaipusam procession," they added.
Police denied online allegations that the group was filmed and followed for 30 minutes, calling it "patently untrue".
"Each of the two engagements by the police in support of the HEB officials was no longer than 10 minutes," the statement said.
They added that authorities were "accommodative" during the engagements although the group had "broken the law and challeng(ed) them".
"Both engagements were filmed in their entirety by police for evidentiary purposes, both in the interests of the devotees and the police," police said.
Police also clarified that while outdoor religious foot processions are generally not allowed, an exception has been made for Thaipusam "in view of the festival’s significance and importance to the community".
The restriction on the playing of musical instruments along the procession route was introduced in 1973. But it has been relaxed since 2011 and devotees have been able to sing religious hymns along the procession if no amplification devices are used. Static music transmission points were allowed in 2012 to broadcast music to devotees.
"The police will continue to work closely with HEB to ensure that the Thaipusam procession continues to take place in a peaceful and safe manner, for the sake of the devotees, their families and the many children who also participate, and the residents, businesses and general public along the procession route," the statement said.